ATHENS -- There was a clear contrast when Georgia’s coordinators met with the media on Wednesday, two days before the start of preseason practice.
Mike Bobo was pretty loose, talking about his summer fishing trip to Alaska. When he was asked what his main concern was for preseason, he said he didn’t have a big one.
“I know we’ve got a mature group, a lot of guys that have played a lot of football,” Bobo said.
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, on the other hand, was all business. He bluntly admitted, as he has since he was hired eight months ago, that a lot needs to be done. And when the questions were finished, Pruitt didn’t say goodbye, he just picked up his phone and left.
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Part of the contrast is because Bobo has been around awhile, and has a better comfort level than Pruitt, hired last January. But it’s also reflective of where things stand on the Georgia football team:
The offense just needs to keep it going. The defense needs to get better fast, and will have to do so with young players.
There are a lot of position battles and smaller issues that Georgia will try to resolve in the coming month. But here are the major storylines as the Bulldogs gear up for the Aug. 31 opener against Clemson:
Figuring out the secondary
Every spot is potentially open on what was the albatross position group for last year’s team. And Pruitt is going to give newcomers and walk-ons every chance to beat out holdovers.
Yes, it’s hard to see senior Damian Swann not manning one of the cornerback slots. Fellow senior Corey Moore might also be a favorite to start at one of the safety spots.
But experience is not plentiful for Pruitt, who made Aaron Davis -- a walk-on redshirt freshman -- a first-team cornerback heading into the preseason.
Freshman Malkom Parrish and junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng will get every chance to show they can play cornerback. Freshman Dominick Sanders will get a long look at safety.
Pruitt said he’s looking mostly for those who can play well against deep passes, but also overall toughness, good man-to-man defense, and tackling ability.
“We’ll see who can do it over and over and over,” Pruitt said. “That’ll be the difference.”
The defense in general
Fixing the secondary would go a long way, but Pruitt hasn’t exactly been glowing with praise about the front seven, either.
That may be a bit of coach-speak, as the linebacking corps could be one of the best in the country, and the defensive line was actually pretty solid last season.
Pruitt wants more consistency out of the linebackers, a fair point, especially considering their pass coverage last year was mediocre.
The front seven in general can also improve, and take the pressure off the question-filled secondary.
The hope for the Bulldogs is that Pruitt’s simpler approach, particularly when it comes to schemes, will help.
But Pruitt also wants to use different packages and substitute a lot, and that requires confidence in using more players. He doesn’t, however, have that confidence heading into practice.
Besides Pruitt’s hiring, the biggest change head coach Mark Richt made in the offseason was appointing co-special teams coordinators: John Lilly and Mike Ekeler. The pair is also being assisted by other assistant coaches, even Pruitt.
Personnel-wise, Georgia needs to decide whether Collin Barber or Adam Erickson will punt, and whether freshman Isaiah McKenzie will handle return duties or they’ll be split again.
But the most important job for Lilly and Ekeler is to find ways to prevent all the errors that have plagued Georgia’s special teams the past few years.
Whether it’s botched snaps or blocked kicks, there have been too many.
Hutson Mason and his receivers
Mason got his game experience at the end of last year, which was invaluable, and had a sterling spring. What he hasn’t done is work a lot with some of his key receivers.
Malcolm Mitchell missed last year with an ACL injury. Justin Scott-Wesley and Jay Rome were also out by the time Mason took over, and like Mitchell missed most of spring practice.
Mitchell is potentially Georgia’s top receiver, Scott-Wesley will be in the rotation, and Rome will be the starting tight end.
“Obviously you lose a guy that was prolific as Aaron (Murray), there’s a little bit of concern, just because of all the games Aaron had played there,” Bobo said.
“But I’m very confident in Hutson, who we’ve got coming back, and the experience he got last year.”